McAdam: Sox folds becoming routine


McAdam: Sox folds becoming routine

NEW YORK -- When the Red Sox last visited Yankee Stadium and dropped the first game of a three-game weekend series, second baseman Dustin Pedroia complained that the Sox had rolled over in the late innings of a 10-3 shellacking, needlessly giving away at-bats.
Pedroia didn't offer the same criticism Friday night when the Sox lost another series opener to the Yankees under suspiciously similar circumstances, even though the final score -- New York 6, Boston 4 -- was more respectable.
In fact, Pedroia didn't say anything at all. As reporters waited to speak to him, Pedroia turned and walked out without comment.
It's impossible to know what was on Pedroia's mind and it's folly to try to guess. But had he chosen to speak, he could have been excused for uttering the very same words he had spoken on the night of July 27.
"We didn't do anything. Our at-bats later in the game were not good -- swinging early in the count and hacking... Do something productive. And we're not doing that. That's a sign of not a winning team. It's frustrating."
Three weeks later, not much has changed. Pedroia brought the Sox back from a 3-0 deifict in the third when he banged a three-run homer to left field off Phil Hughes, giving the Sox a 4-3 lead.
But after that third inning eruption, the Sox managed just three more baserunners the rest of the way.
In three of the final four innings, the Sox were retired 1-2-3.
The Sox, who have had success against Hughes in the past, had succeeded in running his pitch count up in the early innings.
"We kind of let Hughes off the hook," lamented manager Bobby Valentine. "We had him on the ropes there. He had 77 pitches in four (innings) and then gave them a couple of innings where we hit some balls real early in the count and got him back in the game."
Indeed, after averaging almost 20 pitches an inning through the first four, Hughes needed just 29 pitches over the final three frames. In two of those innings, the Sox got a baserunner on first base, but failed to advance him either time.
"Very frustrating," sighed Carl Crawford of the offensive showing. "Could have been you've got to give credit to (Hughes) and we probably had some bad at-bats. Probably a combination of both."
The Sox worked exactly one walk over nine innings and, beyond third -- during which all four of their runs were unearned -- never pieced together a sniff of a threat.
The impatient approach didn't change when the Yankees went to the bullpen, either. David Robertson got three outs (and allowed a single) on 11 pitches, while closer Rafael Soriano set the Sox down in order on 14 pitches.
It's one thing to lose games, as the Red Sox have been doing with increasingly regularlity. But it's another thing entirely to fold after falling behind. Sadly, that, too, is becoming something of a hallmark in the last month.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong


Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.